Employment minefield ahead for businesses

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Cowley.

Business owners are facing a tough choice in the Bay of Plenty.

With the introduction of the new vaccine framework (see below for a full breakdown of the framework), local business will have to choose between losing skilled unvaccinated workers or face restrictions under orange and red statuses.

Yesterday, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood announced a new tool to help businesses assess whether they should be requiring workers to be vaccinated.

The assessment tool, which will be available from mid-December, has a set of four criteria, at least three of which must be met before a business can require vaccination.

These are: How large is the space people work in, how close people are to others, how long they are near others and whether they provide services to people vulnerable to Covid-19.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Cowley says businesses who have the choice to opt into requiring vaccine passes are torn between two key risks.

“They could lose skilled unvaccinated staff if they choose to adopt the vaccine mandate, but they would risk restrictions under orange and red statuses if they do not.

“Business owners are having to understand and implement the new framework at the busiest time of the year for those industries with the highest foot traffic – retail and hospitality.”

Matt says there are also increased costs for these businesses who need to police everyone’s vaccine status before entering their premise.

“Despite the additional costs of complying with the new traffic light system, many service-based businesses need to be open for business this summer so they can replenish cash reserves to get through what will be another quiet winter.”

Scott Simpson.

National’s spokesperson for Workplace Relations, Scott Simpson, backs Matt’s claim saying businesses face an employment minefield.

“Business will welcome the extra tool to validate the vaccine status of employees but the threat of employers still being entangled in personal grievance or constructive dismissal actions remains,” says Scott.

“People who have their jobs terminated because they are unvaccinated are highly likely to take legal recourse that will be both costly and time consuming for employers who just want to get on with doing business.”

Wood says vaccine requirements in the workplace are a common tool many countries around the world are using to stop the spread of Covid and to protect their workers and customers from the virus.

He believes the tool provides a clear, legal framework to help businesses make decisions about vaccinations in the workplace.

“It builds on the guidance provided by WorkSafe and has had input from BusinessNZ and the CTU. The tool will specify four key factors, at least three of which must be met, before it would be reasonable to require vaccination for particular work.”

Michael Wood. Photo: Dom Thomas/RNZ.

Wood says new process won’t override risk assessments that businesses have already done under the existing health and safety guidelines.

He says businesses can choose which one they use, and any assessments done to date remain valid.

“We understand that businesses and workers need certainty. Legislation allowing the vaccination assessment tool to be created, as well as introducing four weeks’ paid notice of termination and paid time off to get vaccinated, will be passed under urgency this week.

“This legislation will come into effect the day after it is passed. The assessment tool will then be available for businesses to use once regulations are made in mid-December under the amended law.”

The requirement to be vaccinated applies to hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms.

To continue doing work in these areas, workers will need to have their first vaccination by the day that the Covid-19 Protection Framework comes into effect, which will be Friday, December 3.

These workers will need to be fully vaccinated by January 17, 2022, to continue doing that work.

Additional information about the new framework

  • Vaccination will be required for all workers at businesses that must use My Vaccine Passes to operate, or have the option of using My Vaccine Passes to operate with fewer restrictions. This applies to hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms. Tertiary education, that takes place on-site, is also included at the Red level. To continue doing that work, workers need to have their first vaccination by the day that the Covid-19 Protection Framework comes into effect. They will need to be fully vaccinated by January 17, 2022.
  • Non-vaccinated employees doing work that requires vaccination (either under mandates or an employer requirement) will be given a new four-week paid notice period if their employment agreements are terminated. This gives these employees a final chance to get vaccinated before their employment agreements are terminated. This change is part of amendments being made this week to the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.
  • Employers will be required to provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated. This change is part of amendments being made this week to the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.

Vaccination assessment tool:

  • The vaccination assessment tool will be made through regulations under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, after it is amended this week.
  • The tool is likely to include the following four factors, though further testing and refinement will happen over the next few weeks:

 

Lower risk

Higher risk

What type of environment does the worker work in?

100m2 indoor space or greater, or outside

Less than 100m2 indoor space

How close does the person work to other people?

At least 1 metre apart

Less than 1 metre apart

How long is the worker in proximity to other people?

15 minutes or less

More than 15 minutes

Does the worker provide
services to people who are vulnerable to COVID-19?

No

Yes

 

  • At least three of the higher-risk indicators for these factors will need to be met before it would be reasonable to require vaccination for particular work.
  • It will be optional for businesses to use the tool. They will still be able to use other health and safety risk assessment processes. The tool will not override any risk assessments that have already been done. WorkSafe has provided guidance on how these decisions can be made at https://www.worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/novel-coronavirus-covid/how-to-decide-what-work-requires-a-vaccinated-employee/.
  • In the tool, the factor relating to ‘vulnerable people’ is defined as people who are:
    • under the minimum age t be vaccinated;
    • medically exempt frm being vaccinated; or
    • at higher risk f severe illness from Covid-19.
    • The Unite Against Cvid-19 website has a section that sets out who is at higher risk of severe illness if they contract Covid-19 and the definition of vulnerable people is based on this definition: Peple at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 | Unite against COVID-19

 

Employers can also require vaccination where a third party has made this a condition (e.g. to access their premises to work). However, just like using the tool, employers will need to work through any potential employment consequences of requiring vaccination for this reason.

 

 




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2 Comments

Just get vaccinated

Posted on 24-11-2021 20:35 | By Get our roads

I am sick of people finding excuses not to get vaccinated. If businesses want consumers money, their staff should be vaccinated. All these antivax people have probably had flu jabe, measles jabs all the jabs you had to have when a child and now preaching loss of freedom. Your still alive arent you, the only thing you are against is keeping your community safe, it’s a no brainer for businesses to insist on staff vaccination to keep your customers safe. I will not go anywhere near a shop who encourages antivax, dont come visit my house either, if you dont want to get vaxxed, fine, but stay away from public places, shops, planes, everything that makes life worth living and enjoy being an outcast beausce that is what you are, and as for Tamaki followers, why dont you all go live together for an experiment.

Stupid politicians is all we have

Posted on 24-11-2021 11:40 | By an_alias

If vaccinated can catch and transmit covid having passports and show us your papers make ZERO difference. Forcing mandates has no gain. Let look at the real cause of business losses, its lockdowns and govt policy. Rapid antigen testing for all and carry on with life without segregation.

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